In a new article, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, Time Magazine delves into why medical bills are so high. 

I had a fibrous cyst creating a boil on my neck several years ago. After a round of antibiotics, a doctor performed a 15 minute outpatient surgery, assisted by a nurse, in an examination room. It wasn't even an operating room. Local anesthetic was used. The incision was about 3/4", and I was given a prescription for Vicodin I really didn't need before I left. 

The bill was about $850. I was shocked. I might have expected $250, but $850?

Well, $850 is nothing in today's medical world. 

Time describes instances of non-life threatening household accident injuries that run up bills in the five figures. More serious problems like treating cancer can run up bills in the six- and seven-figure range with ridiculous line items described in excruciating detail in the article.

What makes the pain of high healthcare costs worse is that the health care providers seem to be profiteering with markups that are as outrageous as they are unjustified. So-called "nonprofit" hospitals are actually profit-making institutions. Have you noticed how your local hospital is adding on new additions like crazy while the rest of the economy is slow. It's a boom economy in healthcare, forcing unjustifiable costs on a public suffering in a totally separate economy.

The article argues something I've already written about here: the healthcare industry isn't a normal market and doesn't really operate in the normal economy the rest of us have to live in. It doesn't compete for the business it gets and there's very little operating to restrain their costs. Yes, your insurance company probably gets a discount of 40%-50%, but even with that discount it's hard to justify the line items on the bills. 

Of course, there are people who can't pay their bills and become write-offs and they become part of the high cost of healthcare, but not such a large part that bills need to be as high as they are. Likewise, insuring themselves against lawsuits filed by people who can't accept that (a) shit happens or that (b) some people's conditions are terminal no matter WHAT care they get is a costly problem.

Putting some controls on the legal problems the industry faces is an obvious need, and one that can be addressed. However, the reasons for high healthcare have mostly to do with greed—getting whatever the traffic will bear—rather than providing the best service possible at a reaonable price. It's an industry that has forgotten that its primary purpose is to provide a service, not to break the back of those it serves with unjustifiably high expenses.

Look, I like capitalism, but I've come to decide that there are places where capitalism doesn't work. We don't want police and fire departments, libraries, and parks to be run on a "what the market will bear" basis. I would think that we especially don't want our healthcare system run that way.

You have no better argument for socializing medicine than the system we have now.

Tags: care, health

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Canadians aren't so dumb in our igloos are we?

I'm strongly considering dual citizenship.

I don't think that's possible in the case of American citizens unless they are entitled to it through an accident of birth (being born in the U.S. by a non-American mother).

I would like to quote Storm by Tim Minchin:

"Alternative Medicine", I continue "Has either not been proved to work, Or been proved not to work. You know what they call "alternative medicine" That's been proved to work? Medicine."

Tim Minchin

I think we've run into a bit of a miscommunication. My definition of alternative medecine would be things like reiki, homeopathy, cleanses, stress relieving lasers, colonics, chiropractic, magnet bracelets, Q-ray bracelets, reflexology and so on. Things that have nonexistent or ridiculous theoretical methods of action and are demonstrably ineffective. 

If you are simply suggesting that showing some care and concern towards keeping yourself healthy is a better option compared to totally ignoring your lifestyle then seeking medical attention for your resulting health problems. If you simply mean that staying healthy by a broadly "healthy" lifestyle is a good plan I wholeheartedly agree with you!

None of that is "alternative medicine". Those are all scientifically valid healthful practices.

The thing is, so are the pills (aka "chemicals") you seem to have an issue with.

Are you kidding ? Humans have lived to an average age of 25 - 30 years for most of our existence , with horrendous childbirth mortalities . Alternative , non scientific , magical treatments have been used for tens of thousands of years without any benefit , only serving in the majority of cases to add to human misery . So called alternative medicine has had it chance , and has failed miserably . The fact it is becoming popular in society again has absolutely nothing to do with any evidence extant that it works , but rather , is due to the massively overwhelming success of scientific , evidence based medical care allowing people to live longer lives in good health , giving them the leisure time to delve into the superstitious , irrational bullshit that we're apparently hardwired for believing .

"Alternative medicine is simply the idea that the body can (and will) heal itself."

I think that's what Steve Jobs thought.

What about cystic fibrosis? Severe combined immunodeficiency? etc, etc,......

And, once DNA gets altered enough to lead to cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, etc., our bodies likely will not "heal" themselves. Granted, spontaneous remissions have occurred, very infrequently, but likely due to more genetic alterations that led to tumor death or adequate recognition and removal by the immune system. My point is, this comment does not appear to take into consideration what we actually do know about cancer, etc., and how our bodies, most of the time, cannot "heal" themselves from cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, etc., or any other disease for which we know the genetic/molecular mechanisms. 

Belle, Belle, Belle! By what sleight of logic is eating healthily and getting exercise "alternative" medicine? I have gotten that advice from my medical doctors for years. Not saying I follow the advice as well as I should, but that is the advice they give. Now, does alternative medicine have alternative treatments for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc., than mainstream medicine? I don't know, but I do know we are often deep in the realm of snake oil and faddism when we start going to the local GNC instead of the local medical doctor.

ones health is generally determined by genetic lottery and your lifestyle.  While you can do nothing about the former, you can certainly influence the latter.  It cracks me up to see people gorging on junk food, fried food, and sugar filled everything whilst taking 10+ medications daily to control their 'conditions'.  It is simpler to drink moderately, dont smoke, exercise heartily, ditch the soft drinks, only ever eat fresh food, and never ever eat fried food.  Assuming you have the genetic part right, the rest should take care of itself.  Cleanses, colonics and 'stress relieving lasers' (thats a new one), are essentially harmless, unlike fried food, animal proteins in excess etc.   That being said, the topic was medical costs...my good friend is a 38 year old Brain Surgeon pulling in $900k a year.  yes, medical costs are out of this world.

Actually, some forms of diabetes are genetic and likely did occur - those afflicted just died at a young age.

Obesity related diabetes, on the other hand, obviously is more prevalent today due to obesity and increased life span.

The reality is people consume far more than necessary and exercise far less than necessary - and we will all be paying for it.

I calculated the cost of the calories to generate the excess 20 pounds for each American adult since ~1960 - it's about the same as our national debt. And as far as I can tell, neither is going away any time soon.

"Diabetes is a disease our ancestors did NOT have ( because of the way they ate )." Really , Belle ? People have had diabetes since there have been people . As a matter of fact , all mammals are susceptible to Diabetes Melitus . This is exactly the ignorance that is promoted and spread by proponents of the hucksterism and quackery that is alternative medicine . There was no ," Golden Age " , of " village Healers " curing our ancestors "naturally " . People's lives were nasty , brutish , and short , AND filled with horrible infectious and non infectious illnesses for which the only relief was a rapid death .

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